A bill to keep the government open through Sept. 30 while trimming $38 billion from the federal budget, cleared the House with bipartisan support, 260-167. Fifty-nine Republicans ignored their party’s pleas and voted against the bill, while 81 of the House’s 193 Democrats supported it. The bill later passed the Senate 81-19.
Now, we must endure more nail biting as the annual deadline for raising the country’s debt limit approaches. From the hand ringing and oh-my-gods on TV, I have to take the Republican shut-down threat seriously this time, even though I can’t believe anyone would be that crazy.
If the radical right blocks the normal procedure to allow the government to raise funds, the consequences would be disastrous.
And voters would punish the people responsible as they did a decade and a half ago. (Click here for details.)
Yet a shutdown seems inevitable. We have an apparent stand-off.
President Obama says his veto pen is poised to strike down any attempt to destroy Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
House Speaker John Boehner says Obama’s proposal to revoke the Bush tax cuts for America’s fat cats is off the table.
So there’s no compromise in sight this time.
Meanwhile, the 2012 election campaign has begun.
I expect nothing to be accomplished in Washington for the next year and a half. But I think the politicians will find some way of dancing around a shutdown. They’re smart enough to know it would deep-six their re-election hopes.
Ironically, while lawmakers wrestle over various plans to reduce public spending, they and their opponents will be spending billions – $8 billion by some estimates – to get elected.
On the surface, the choice is clear in the election. The president laid it out masterfully in his speech this week.
Voters must choose between two Americas: one in which only the strong survive; the other a more compassionate society in which everyone is protected.
However, when I dig a little deeper, the picture becomes less clear.
With the huge cost of campaigning for elected office in America and the recent Supreme Court ruling that effectively lifts limits from corporate campaign spending, no politician can afford to antagonize the global corporations and powerful individuals who have gobbled up the bulk of the nation’s wealth.
To get elected, politicians need cash – lots of cash.
To get cash they need supporters with deep pockets.
So whoever gets elected will be beholden to the super-rich.
Unless – and this is a long shot – millions of poor and middle-class Americans break open their piggy banks again, as they did in funding Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008.